How Veterans Can Get Help:
- Veteran's crisis hotline
- Sign up for text reminders
- Free app: Covid Coach
TAMPA, Fla. — May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the VA is asking veterans to prioritize their mental health right now.
There are over 1.5 million veterans in Florida and the state has the third largest veteran population in the nation.
So how are veterans handling this pandemic?
Dr. Ronald Gironda, Chief of Psychology at James A. Haley VA Medical Center, says medical assistance right now is critically important for veterans, especially those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"Not only have our anxieties been heightened but our normal routines have been disrupted in an unprecedented way. And of course, veterans with PTSD and other mental health conditions are at increase risks for worsening of their symptoms," Dr. Ronald Gironda said.
SIGNS TO WATCH FOR
The contributing factors include social distancing measures, financial stress and more.
"For many, it's a disruption in our normal pattern such as eating patterns, sleeping patterns, physical activity and of course, there's increased consumption of alcohol and other substances."
There are warning signs a veteran may need help, especially if you see changes in how their functioning or their mood.
"It could be increased negative emotions such as sadness or anger or fear. it could be changes in behavior such as increased crying, irritability, angry outbursts or social isolation. That's a big one,'' Dr. Gironda warns.
And Gironda says pay attention if a veteran threatens to harm himself or becomes preoccupied with death.
"We also look for things like what we call preparatory or closure behaviors. Things like giving away possessions. prized possessions or creating a will," Dr. Gironda explained.
'WE'RE HERE FOR YOU'
Mental health services are available through the VA and many are free.
They include: telephone or video appointments, online chatting and texting. VA offers mental health apps and a webpage specifically for those battling PTSD.
And for any veteran still struggling right now, Gironda says pick up the phone.
"I would just encourage folks to reach out if they need us. We're here for you,'' he assured everyone.
If you're a veteran who needs help, call the Veteran's Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. It's answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can can visit www.MakeTheConnection.net which has more mental health resources.
You can sign up for text message reminders that help veterans monitor their symptoms. Just head to www.Mobile.VA.gov
Also at www.Mentalhealth.VA.gov, you can receive help managing stress and anxiety as well as contact more mental health resources.
Finally, The National Center for PTSD just developed a free App called "Covid Coach."
It helps people manage stress and offers resources for dealing with isolation, anxiety and unemployment.